Reducing The Risk Of Food Related Choking

Reducing The Risk Of Food Related Choking

Children under 5 years and especially those under 3 years have a higher risk of choking on food than older children.  Some foods pose a greater risk than others.  Find out here how to minimise the risk of food related choking.

Minimising the risk of food related choking in young children

The Ministry of Health has recently updated the Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Children and Young People (Aged 2–18 years).  One section of these guidelines which was updated was the section on minimising the risk of food related choking.  Below is a summary of the Ministry of Health's current recommendations;

People can choke on food at any age but children are at higher risk of choking until approximately five years, with children up to three years of age at greatest risk. Approximately 70–90 percent of all choking incidents reported are in children under three years, with foods being the most common cause of choking.

While people of any age can choke on food, young children choke on food more easily for a number of reasons, including:

  • the small diameter of their air and food passages (similar to the diameter of their little finger) which can be easily blocked by small objects
  • their inexperience with moving food around in the mouth
  • biting and chewing skills that are not fully developed
  • a less effective cough mechanism to dislodge foreign bodies

To reduce the risk of food-related choking in young children:

- Always make sure young children sit down while they eat, and that an adult is with them while they are eating or drinking.

- Offer food that matches their chewing and grinding ability.

- Be aware of foods which are more likely to cause choking:

  • small hard foods that are difficult for children to bite or chew (eg, nuts, raw carrot, apple, celery)
  • small round foods that can get stuck in children’s throats (eg, grapes, berries, peas, watermelon and other large seeds, lollies, raisins/sultanas)
  • foods with skins or leaves that are difficult to chew (eg, sausages, chicken, lettuce, nectarines, peaches, plums)
  • compressible* food that can get stuck in children’s throats (eg hot dogs, sausages, pieces of cooked meat, popcorn)
  • thick pastes that can get stuck in children’s throats (eg, chocolate spreads, thick peanut butter)
  • fibrous or stringy foods that are difficult for children to chew (celery, rhubarb, raw pineapple)

- To reduce the risk of choking on these foods, you can:

  • alter the food texture – grate, cook, finely chop or mash the food
  • remove the high risk parts of the food – peel off the skin, or remove the strong fibres
  • avoid giving small hard foods, such as whole nuts and large seeds, until children are at least 5 years old

- Parents and caregivers need to learn choking first aid and CPR.

* These are foods that can squash into the shape of a child’s throat and get stuck there

Visit the Ministry's website for more details

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The Fuelled4life team.